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Demola Rewaju: Your bio says you are an Employment Solutions Strategist and I can’t seem to find that job portfolio anywhere else? Can you tell us more about what you do?

Ronke Kosoko: When people talk about employment, they view it mainly from the HR perspective but that doesn’t address 5% of the employment issues at all. Let me acknowledge that there are many HR experts out there and thumbs up to them all but the message of CV packaging, elocution, branding, employability can’t solve the hydra-headed unemployment challenge facing Nigeria and Africa as a whole. So, my job as an Employment Solutions Strategist is to UNIFY the efforts of all concerned stakeholders within the employment value chain in solving the unemployment and human capital challenge facing the country. These stakeholders includes-government at all levels, policy makers, the private sector who invest money within the economy, employers of all status and then the unemployed and underemployed and even the working class. You must coordinate and strategically address the needs of all these people before true employment can be created.

Demola Rewaju: What are your views about the employment situation in the country?

Ronke Kosoko: Everyone knows what the situation is and it’s been an age long problem which must be solved considering the security and social crisis that has leapt out of the situation. The Nigeria of today has at least an unemployed person in each household and you can’t ignore that huge number.

Demola Rewaju: Do you really think there are jobs in Nigeria?

Ronke Kosoko: Honestly, there are jobs in Nigeria and sometimes not the conventional jobs that people are accustomed to. The labour market is changing very fast with new roles springing up but our educational system has not changed to meet up with the changes in the economy and this in itself aggravates the employment situation but the truth is there are jobs out there.

Demola Rewaju: Organizations have been downsizing in the past three months including banks and multinationals, what happened?

Ronke Kosoko: This is simply because of the change in government and there has not been any policy or economic direction in the last 9months. So organizations and investors are in limbo. Some have moved their money out of the economy, some haven’t generated revenue. Some are not even spending a dime while some had to restructure to meet the challenges of the new era.

Demola Rewaju: There are lots of hypes about CV Branding, Employability messages and the likes. Do you think this is enough to put over 70Million people back to work?

Ronke Kosoko: I answered that earlier, those messages are needed but they can’t solve all the problem at hand.

Demola Rewaju: Nigeria has tried several theories but don’t seem to get it. How exactly do nations create jobs?

Ronke Kosoko: Nations create jobs seamlessly when they have all their systems synchronized but I can’t see Nigeria synchronizing anything not even within the government itself let alone in the private sector. The government must be in sync with the private sector and the private sector must be in sync with the policy makers and all these elements must be in sync with the academia and then the media but all that is missing in our clime, so job creation becomes a daunting challenge.

Demola Rewaju: Every government seems to campaign with Job Creation Agenda but don’t deliver the jobs after elections. What are we missing?

Ronke Kosoko: It is simply because the Nigerian electorates don’t ask for SUBSTANCE and easily get swayed with WORDS but words can’t turn stone to rice. When @APCNigeria promised 3Million jobs for instance, no one asked how that was going to happen and the people just believed 3Million jobs would be created because APC and @MBuhari promised it. The government also promised N5, 000 monthly stipends to 25,000,000 citizens and I quickly put on my economics thinking cap asking where the government was going to get the N1.5trillion to finance that! 30% of the nation’s annual budget in the face of dwindling oil revenue for social safety nets?

Demiola Rewaju: @APCNigeria at the last election promised Nigerians 3Million jobs. Are Nigerian youths going to get these jobs?

Ronke Kosoko: The issue is not whether it can be done, the issue is will government listen and allow those who knows what to do get the job done. Those people may not be in the corridors of power. Trust me, employment solution is not rocket science, there are lots of technicalities and brain work involved. Some of those things will not even be sweet to the hearing of the government itself but excuse me, we need to get tough and step on toes when there is a need to do so. Those who know what to do should be allowed to take the driver’s seat in generating the right result.

Demola Rewaju: If you are to assess the last administration vis-à-vis the new administration, which do you think fared best in its employment creation strategies?

Ronke Kosoko: From what I’ve seen so far, @APCNigeria has not presented any employment solution strategy but abracadabra media hype. The last administration by @PDPNigeria had a very good employment solution strategy that they didn’t sell very well.  They threw money at issues and shunned the best ideas and that’s why we have slipped back in the nation’s employment drive.

Demola Rewaju: Now moving on to the Local Content Policy of the last administration, what were the benefits to Nigeria?

Ronke Kosoko: The policy came into existence in April, 2010 with a growing number of indigenous companies playing active roles in the industry. The Act directly affects operating companies, contractors, sub-contractors and service providers by prescribing minimum thresholds for the use of local services and materials and to promote the employment of Nigerians. The law requires that first consideration be given to Nigerian companies when contracts are awarded for oil blocks, licenses and all other projects. The Act defines a Nigerian company as one formed and registered in Nigeria under the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990 with not less than 51 percent equity shares owned by Nigerians. Financing and technical expertise were major challenges facing local players so you now have international financiers partnering Nigerian companies in the industry. The enactment of the Local Content Act was meant to reduce capital flight, provide more jobs for Nigerians and generally promote doing business in Nigeria and by Nigerians.

After four years, there have been modest achievements and an improvement in the overall Nigerian value addition. Nigerian engineering and service companies benefitted from it, with increase in the volume of in-country fabrication etc The industry was in the past the exclusive domain of international oil companies (IOCs) in areas such as exploration and production, now have Nigerian companies owning more than 100 blocks across oil-producing regions in the country, and at least 30 marginal fields.

According to Section 3, sub-section 1 of the Act, “Nigerian independent operators shall be given first consideration in the award of oil blocks, oil field licences, oil lifting licences and all projects for which contract is to be awarded in the Nigerian oil and gas industry, subject to the fulfillment of such conditions as may be specified” As the trend of asset divestments by IOCs operating in the country continues, more indigenous companies such as Seplat and Oando Plc snapped up more upstream assets.

The economic policy of trade liberalization, inflow of FDI, deregulation & removal of regulations that impedes market entry or restricting competition was not in Africa’s favor. The policies gave room to exploitative tendencies which opens markets of less developed countries (LDCs) to exploitation by companies from developed economies. A non- Norwegian is not permitted to lift Norway’s crude for instance but what’s the story of our indigenous operators in Nigeria?

If they don’t get businesses and generate revenue, they can’t create jobs. Between 2015 and 2016, Nigeria’s oil and gas sector was supposed to rake in $10 billion worth of investments through the Local Content Development Policy. Before this administration, about N3.8 trillion investment was retained in-country and hundreds of thousands of jobs created. The former Executive Secretary of NCDMB disclosed at the Nigerian Investment Forum in Houston, Texas late last year.

He also said that over $5 billion worth of investments has been made in Nigeria since the signing of the Nigerian Content Bill into law in April 2010. The acquisition of key assets and establishment of critical facilities by local and foreign investors will help guarantee the continued implementation of the Nigerian Content Act. Nigerian investors and their partners demonstrated their resolve for the continuation of that policy by building immense capacity over the past five years, acquiring hi-tech industry equipment and creating employment opportunities for thousands of young Nigerians but this has been halted.

Policy statements issued by the in-coming government had indicated that it will continue to support indigenous participation and Nigerian Content but we are waiting for that implementation. It is very important that the international community gets that message clearly and that Nigerians who are investing, continue to do so believing that government is a continuum and will always support them by continuing with good policies they have initiated.” Nigeria became a force to reckon with on the petroleum industry through the support of the Nigerian Content Act under the last administration. The success of the national content agenda, with its ability to create massive multiplier effects in other sectors of the economy that need to diversify away from oil and gas, has influenced thought to expand the initiative into other sectors such as power and energy.

Lack of in-country financial capacity to undertake big ticket transactions and inadequate infrastructure, including the deplorable state of supporting industries, for prototyping or manufacturing or assembling any locally engineered solutions, as major challenges facing the local content policy and the limited access to technology that hinders the possibility of innovation and domestic technological creativity. For the policy to achieve its full potentials, he stated: “The critical missing link between strategy and action must be addressed to avoid the persistent incapacitation that public policy initiatives and actions many government programmes and projects have suffered. The Nigeria Content Development Fund which could help solve the financial capacity constraint, and enable small scale enterprises to finance their joint initiatives. This new administration need to build on all these and the industry waited for new policy directions to no avail. Had this had been done, it would have provided a new dynamic investment destination and you can see why the whole world has been calling our President “baba go-slow”.

There is more to building the economy than fighting corruption and these are the dynamics that somersaults employment creation in the country. There was a gradual interface between oil and gas, small and medium enterprises operating in Nigeria/West Africa and original equipment manufacturers in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East been built but that has been cut off with the exit of the last administration and with the slash in the global oil price, Nigeria really has huge work at its doorstep. By the end of this 2014, the major divestments by IOCs since 2010 had transferred about 5 billion barrels of oil and 20 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas to indigenous players. Local operatorship of divested assets, with a corresponding boost in local production will be key to assessing the success of the government’s local content policy in the upstream sector. If the PIB had been successfully passed, production growth for junior and indigenous companies would have increased.

These are the dynamics that influence employment creation in the country but not understood by the large populace who vote. so they just don’t understand why some things don’t happen in the economy despite the genuineness of whosoever they have chosen to be their leader. The local content created incremental value in one industry, now duplicate that across industries then you’ll have a boom in employment creation. We were seeing fabrication projects, pressure vessels being built by Nigerian companies. Keep that up consistently for 20-30 years!

I’m hoping that this administration will read this interview and take some lessons from it.

 

Thanks for interviewing me.

 

 

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